Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Trial by Fire

For quite some time I was able to maintain a timetable of sorts, something that at least regimented my posting and gave me a sense of how long I had gone between posts. Maybe that's hard to believe after just three posts, but, well, you'll have to take my word for it I guess. Anyways, I have pretty much abandoned that paradigm. I've never really been very quanitative (especially with the general public), and it's really fitting that my blog would follow the same general course.

I can't really believe that I've been here for almost a month now. Shocking really. Even more shocking that I was in Morris just 2 months ago. Morris couldn't feel further away in many respects, so it'll be interesting to see how I feel about it 3-4 months from now. Even more intriguing should be to examine how I'm feeling when I'm about to go back there in roughly 6-7 months.

Anyhow, the biggest news right now is that I'm going to Wales this weekend. It should be fun, and for those that bemoan my lack of posting, it will probably provide ample substance for another journal entry. London is great of course, but I really hope to get around while I'm over here and have the opportunity.

In a slight shift, one of the strangest things about being thrown into something unfamiliar is readjusting (or perhaps reverting) to that freshman state of mind. There isn't the sense of establishment or contentment with the people and places you're surrounded by. Excitement and anxiety alternate in their predominance, and autonomy is often compromised in order to stay commensurate with the ebb and flow of the tide.

The tough part is, early on you're kind of circumscribed to the whims of the tide. In fact, nobody even wants to be swept onto the shore until they're certain they have what it takes to survive. So you'll do things, seemingly little, in order to stay the course. Whether it's stepping outside your normal social pattern in order to ingratiate yourself to others, or if it's believing against belief that somebody isn't showing you all that's there. Along with these concessions come ramifications, which will sting moreso than those incurred under your own discretion. Still, that's not really the point. I've never enjoyed stepping outside my own comfort zone. There've always been reasons to avoid striking up conversation with someone..whether it be..fear, pride, antipathy..y'know, the classics (and to those who caught that..yes..definite scrubs homage). That said, it's your prerogative to seize the opportunties, or to be less cliche, to step into the tide while maintaining that inimitable identity that has secured such comfort elsewhere. It may actually yield some unpleasant results, particularly in the early stages. Nonetheless, it's better than waking up 6 months later to find the mistakes of another person etched into your soul.

(woo..kind of heavy, I know. Perhaps a bit melodramatic too. I should probably stick to getting drunk at pubs. Easy, relaxed, and nobody remembers this the next morning)

Monday, January 23, 2006

A Precocious Comfort

I hope my absence hasn't troubled anyone. I have immediately discovered the difficulties of maintaining a blog, as it seems to require both a diligence and an ingenuity that I may not actually possess. Nonetheless, I've decided to painstakingly formulate the third installment of this online journal. Perhaps perseverence will yield surprising results.

As somewhat of a preface, I'd like to thank everyone who emailed, messaged, called, facewalled, or otherwise took the time to wish me a happy birthday. You're all on my good list, which I don't actually have, but if I had one, you'd probably be on it. In all seriousness, I was touched.

In regards to London, it's going pretty well, although I'm finding it difficult to become ensconced with my regular work routine while in such an incredible place. Only one of my classes has thus far captivated my interest, which only compounds the situation. Hopefully things pick up in the others, but I'm not terribly optimistic. I've become extremely apt at judging a professor's quality at this point, and my other professors leave a lot to be desired.

On the cultural/entertainment side of things, a lot has happened since I last posted. The highlight has probably been a boat cruise on the Thames (but no, I sadly did not see the whale). It was probably the first redeemable event my university here has put together. Lots of people went, so in addition to being beautiful and enjoyable on its own, it also provided an opportunity to mingle with some new people. Other things have occurred, such as trips to Westminster, The National Gallery, various London theatres, Oxford University, and Parliament. If any one of those things piqued your interest, feel free to ask me about them online/through email.

With the tedious life updates out of the way, I feel free to focus on the true intent of this post, the issue of comfort. The trajectory of my experience in Britain has undoubtedly been wildly unstable. To some degree, this is what gives the experience it's allure: a liberation of sorts, from the mundane and monotonous routines of the familiar. It was probably a large part of my own reasoning for coming to London. There is, all romanticizing aside, some truth to the conception of study abroad as an exercise in self-ecstasy. Still, I think there is a point where that emotional state is transcended, and I believe I've at least done that temporarily. I wouldn't be surprised to discover that the ecstasy is actually intermittent, as opposed to something ephemeral, but for now I've certainly achieved another plane. It's this plane, this comfort, that has emerged as the new definitive stage of my experience here.

I'm not about to say that everything has fallen into place or that this is everything I want...because that wouldn't be true. However, this stage is characterized by a more palpable sense of contentment, a contentment that is perhaps achievable. People, places, and opportunity seem to be there, if not in abundance, and I have a sense that I can craft my own experience here without succumbing to an experience contrived by circumstance. Prior to this frame of mind I endured an emotional upheaval of polarity and inconstancy. I liked elements of that, and wouldn't trade that part of the experience for anything. Still, it's a relief to feel a wave of comfort, however precocious it may be.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Two Girls Holding Hands

The beauty of travelling across the ocean to live in another country resides largely in the opportunity to witness and experience a vastly different culture. Culture in London is remarkably diverse, but sadly my opportunities to really experience it first-hand have been thus far circumscribed to observation. Westminster caters to an extensive international student base, but unfortunatley that often means clustering these students together for the purpose of ease. Obviously classes haven't even started yet, at which point the number of opportunities should increase exponentially, but the sooner I can get rolling on my British accent the better.

Still, things are of course, leveling out as time passes. I'm not sure whether or not to expect a plateau of sorts to be established, a plateau by which the magnitude of my experiences will be measured. I do assume that a routine of sorts will eventually form itself, perhaps unconsciously. The question then becomes whether or not that routine becomes insipid. Obviously, without even having started classes, it's difficult to intelligently prognosticate about.

As for the title of this post, it alludes to one of my many promenades through London. I found myself traversing one of the innumerable underground tube stations in London only to stumble upon this unfamiliar display of public affection. I was busy contemplating this, when the woman on the left turned back and gazed into my eyes. I hadn't, at this point, looked at her directly, but something indicated to me that she had a very pallid complexion. I jerked around only to accidentally brush against her. "Oh, gosh.." I said, before carefully perusing her for the first time, and then continued, "..I'm terribly sorry...sir." Hmm....maybe the Brits aren't so different after all.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Destination: London, UK

Wow...well..it's been a few days now. I left for London on Friday at 6:55 pm, and arrived at Heathrow in London at 11:30 am. The travel was taxing, although I think the effects are often overstated. After arriving at my dorm at Wesminster, I was immediately struck by how dilapidated the dorm was. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but my expectations were completely displaced and supplanted by a more concrete impression of the program. The lack of structure has also caught me off-balance, as there hasn't really been much of a infatuation stage due to the copious pragmatic considerations about the amenities needed. Obviously the nature of displacement often means sacrificing comforts that come from being established somewhere, but the extent and immediacy of these concerns has been surprising.

As for the city of London, it is of course, absolutely magnificent. I'm fairly certain that I'll struggle to even scratch the surface of the city's interminable attractions. I'm excited to explore the city in great depth, as I haven't even had the opportunity to take in more than a cursory glance. Still, if nothing else, the city will not disappoint.

As for the general University experience, it's been fairly mixed thus far. I've undergone a great deal of vacillation due to the extreme spectrum of emotions that characterize this type of experience. Personally, I've found myself to be extremely impressionable in the early stages, and the impact one person can have at this stage is truly remarkable. With that of course comes a plethora of feelings, ranging from exhileration to anxiety and even despondency. There have been moments where I've felt like I've made the best decision of my entire life, and other moments where there is a strong impulse to call home and completely abandon the entire experience. Perhaps my sentiments are prototypical of this type of experience, but the extremity of them is certainly unique to me.

I guess I should mention that this is my first livejournal post ever, and I'm looking forward to having this journal both for my friends and for myself at a later date. I've always had a desire to keep a journal of my activities in order to really get a concerete sense of my thoughts and feelings at a given time period, and this will certainly provide that for the duration of my London experience. Hopefully I'll be able to keep things interesting for my one or two devoted readers, who I'm sure will be constantly pining for new updates from here on out. Anyhow, I've rambled enough.
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